Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “writing”

Reader Round Up: April


Oh, April–your fickle weather kept me indoors reading instead of being outside weeding. Not necessarily a complaint. Here are the five star reads of the month that kickstarts the beginnings of spring.

Going down the same path of mitigating various dramas in Mitford, this seventh installment touches on a topic not usually addressed: depression among clerics. Father Tim has blown his diabetic diet once again, and this time there are dire consequences.
As always, Karon provides humor in serious situations along with valuable life lessons.

Well-written, and though aimed at middle readers, Grisham presents a plausible story that veers towards drubbing those kids who stray from the straight and narrow. He does bring home the importance of how one wrong choice can have huge consequences. Seventh and perhaps the best in the series, Grisham takes on the bail bond system when one of Theo’s fellow Scouts and classmates becomes inadvertently an accomplice to armed robbery. Basically, Grisham wants his readers to know how flawed the legal system can be at times. The storyline includes the inevitable animal court where Theodore shines as a burgeoning lawyer. The case this time is a flatulent bunny who terrorizes the neighborhood canines.

With a nod to Agatha Christie and more than a couple of winks to the murder mystery industry, Horowitz provides a clever meta fiction that features his ability at creating an engaging storyline.
A plot about a murder mystery that is the core to a story about an actual murder is clever meta fiction indeed.

While it seems as if readers are reading an homage to Agatha Christie they are in truth reading about how a book editor has become a detective trying to solve the murder of the murder mystery writer. Lots of winking going on here.

Horowitz brazenly nods to several mystery writers and even trots out Agatha Christie’s grandson for extra measure. If it weren’t all so obvious it would be irritating to have a murder mystery interrupted at the denouement to become a murder mystery.

Horowitz was obviously having fun.

So much fun that he shamelessly promotes his Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War series. He even takes the time to insert a mild diatribe how real murders aren’t as common or convoluted as novels present them to be.

A reluctant five because it is difficult to ignore that Horowitz is a talented and clever writer and has produced an engaging whodunnit, despite all the winking and nodding going on.
For those who enjoyed Knives Out.

A four plus star

While many readers have expressed negative views of Thomas‘s Sherlock Holmes pastiche, a deeper appreciation of the cavalcade of historical detail can be summoned. Thomas captures the voice of Watson well, Sherlock somewhat. Of the five stories “Peter the Painter” provides as much action and intrigue as “The Hound of Baskerville.”

Read any good books lately? Do tell. Do share.

For all the other books read and reviewed be sure to check out my Good Reads reading challenge.

Book Birthday Two


Two Years Today!

Two years ago on April 7th, Someday We Will debuted ready to greet the world with its message of the joy that comes with anticipating a visit with those we love, especially visits with grandparents.

Two years ago was also the start of the pandemic. Schools, businesses, transportation, borders, so much shut down as the world learned how to cope with Covid.

Not the most advantageous time to promote a debut picture book. Ironically enough (although one librarian deemed it prescient) the book’s focus is on the joy of coming together after being separated.

Covid was not on my mind when I submitted the book for publication to Beaming Books two years earlier.My thoughts were on the joy experienced whenever I visit my granddaughter.

Separation has taken on deeper meaning with Covid. There is more involved, more considerations when planning a visit. “Someday we will…”and “Someday is here!” has more personal meaning these days.

With libraries and bookstores open once again to in-person events, I look forward to making the rounds and promoting Someday We Will.

In these past two years have you had your someday turn into today? I hope so! That moment of being reunited with a loved one is not just for grandparents and grandchildren.

In the meantime I’ve been busy writing and submitting other stories and look forward to sharing more book birthdays with you.

Looking to order the book?

Looking for reviews? Goodreads

BookStop is Here!


Author Spotlight: Brian Selznick


I confess: I’m a binger (interestingly spellcheck kept turning that into “bungee”–flexible strength in reading? hmm, maybe…).

Once interested in something I latch on and absorb as much as possible. Sample binges include: Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, the educational geography game, the reboot of Dr Who, and of latest interest, Brian Selznick’s works.

I can’t remember which I read or watched first concerning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Both the film and the book and the audio book are stand alones, yet complement each other emphatically.

The bonus DVD disc in the audio book is an engaging interview of Selznick explaining his creative process. He is quite personable and his enthusiasm for his craft is inspiring.

The next book I read is his first published title: Houdini’s Box. His understated humor in both his drawings and story are evident and it’s hoped he writes more of these shorter humorous stories.

Selznick’s trademark seems to be a unique approach to storytelling in which it’s a bit of graphic novel, somewhat of a fable in text, that leans toward a wordless flip book. His talent for story and illustration is equally balanced–quite the gift.

Speaking of illustration, Selznick has illustrated for numerous authors besides his own writing, including Ann Martin Pam Muniz Ryan.

Having recently finished Wonderstruck, I, of course, needed to watch the film adaptation. Turns out he wrote the screenplay. This man’s talent and energy is astounding.

I rounded out my reading-fest with The Marvels, which I had mixed feelings about due to the graphic story being far more interesting than the accompanying text. I look forward to his next title.

I came across an enlightening New York Times interview with Selznick that revealed some interesting facts:

  • Yes, that Selznick. He is related to the legendary David O. Selznick of Hollywood fame.
  • Ray Bradbury sent him a fan letter.
  • He researches extensively.
  • Splitting his time between three homes in three different parts of the country is a norm.

If you are not familiar with his works, I suggest starting out with Houdini’s Box, moving onto Hugo (do listen to it while you read it–such a double treat), then watch the Scorsese film of Hugo (the book is the book, the movie is the movie). From there? Explore, enjoy, maybe even binge a little.

Hazy Daze: August Fire Season


August is proving to be a difficult month in our area. For the last three years forest fires have created smoky days so bad that air alerts are issued. Often the wildfires are started with a July lightning strike, although it is estimated 85% of the fires are started by people either through accident or by arson. No matter how the fires start, everyone suffers. At one point the rating was 160–unhealthy is between 101-200, and then moves into extreme.

Red sunrises and sunsets are reminiscent of being in a Ray Bradbury short story as blue skies disappear and the days are shrouded in paleness that is somewhat disorienting. The world as we knew has morphed into one continuous mono sky of creamy grey. The tree topped mountains bear streamers of thickened mist that almost looks like the early morning fall fogs. These mists hover ominously all day with a suppressing heaviness.

With numerous fires burning throughout our area and no relieving rain in sight, changes are apparent in the community’s usual routine: athletic events are cancelled, as are church picnics, tourist traffic is decreased, people are wearing masks. Few people are in their yards. Fewer people are walking and cycling. The beach is nearly deserted. The most activity is at the fairground.

The local fairground is providing campground space for the fire fighters. Colorful pop up dome tents are scattered all over the scruffy yellowed grass. Four wheel drives and diesel trucks line the makeshift fence keeping the row of porta-potties company. A few people wander about, especially in the early morning when I pass by them on my daily walk, when I detect a breeze and go for a quick stretch. I say silent prayers of keeping them safe, and tears of gratitude unexpectedly escape as I reflect on their efforts. I wonder how their mothers are dealing with their sons and daughters risking their lives daily with the flames. Many of the firefighters are volunteers. There is a banner at the front of the parking lot where people are signing their thanks, prayers, good wishes, and leaving uplifting messages.

As our community deals with the smoke and haze, my reading has become an escape since going outside is now a health issue that can’t be ignored. Curtailing my usual walk is a consideration as I am developing a tight chest, sore throat, and find myself clearing my throat and coughing. Running the air conditioner is not advised on some days. Even vacuuming is not advised since it stirs up particles. Barbecue is not on the menu. The lawn is becoming shaggy as mowing it in this soup bowl of haze is not wise. I quickly spritz flowers and my strawberries with water. And this is where it is interesting. Since the haze veils the sun the usual heat of August, the intense 90-100 degree days are nil. Pleasant temps of 75 degrees are the norm. The lack of direct sun means flowers aren’t withering in the heat. The ground is actually staying moist. This has become the best year for strawberries. The plants are still flowering and bearing tasty berries–tartly sweet, small but quite tongue pleasing in flavor. I carefully rinse and rinse again as a guard against particle matters.

So, with outdoor activities curtailed I am reading. A lot. It’s almost embarrassing how many books I have read in August. I could have used this time to work on my own writing projects, yet I need blue sky for inspiration. These days of opaque horizons are suppressing my energy for creativity. Books are my balm and retreat.

Are you living with wildfire threat and hazy days? How is your community coping?

Update: Prior to posting it rained in the night! What a difference!

I can see clearly now (and the air is soooo fresh).

Writing Quotes


Usually I dedicate a chunk of time during the summer to writing projects: finishing, editing, revising, submitting. This summer writing has taken a back seat to my dealing with healing. Typing with my left hand, mainly my left thumb while my right hand passively observes, is not conducive to getting a lot of writing done. There is a deadline of 10 pages by August 21 I’m gamely trying to meet.

So–I get sidetracked. One of my more diverting diversions is looking up words on dictionary.com and I came across these quotes of encouragement. Hope one of them rings true for you:

   
               

The Writing Mews 


As Hemingway once said: “One cat leads to another.”

This is exactly what happened to me. 

I wrote a story for Highlights magazine about Mark Twain’s affection for cats and decided to keep going with other writers and the cats in their life.

This has become a much bigger project than anticipated. 

One great thing about the Internet is that there is the ease of getting information. It’s only a click away. The truly terrible thing about the Internet is the ease of posting information. There is way too much traffic of absolutely wrong information out there. It’s a game of “telephone” in an exponential factor of believability because it’s so vastly repeated.

Their are no less than a bajillion sites devoted to writers who loved cats. They all say pretty much the same thing about the same set of writers. For instance, Sir Walter Scott, famous for Ivanhoe, as well as being credited for creating the historical adventure nivel, is down for being a wondrous cat lover.

Getting correct or first source information takes determination and endurance. 

I spent all day yesterday tracking down Sir Walter Scott’s supposed love of cats.

Where did people who have posted on their cat sites that SWS loved cats? He owned at least five dogs and owned ONE cat. They didn’t even spell the cat’s name right.

But I dug, and I dug. I reformatted my search inquiry again and again. I looked and looked in Google books. It’s a delightful accomplishment to find that grain of sand in that vast sea of information.

This process has been repeated pretty much for each of the writers selected.

Sigh…

I have a couple of more weeks to get my first draft in working order, because end of August is the beginning of school and once school starts my brain and writing time goes into teacher mode.

So while the muse is available I will focus on my mews.

BtW: if you know of any agents, editors, or publishers looking for an amazing book about authors and that special cat connection, send  them my way.

Here’s some fun cat/author facts:

1. Edgar Allan Poe really loved animals. Don’t let his story “The Black Cat” mislead you.

2. Macho man Ernest Hemingway was a total softie for cats. He kept over thirty of them at one point. 

3. Ray Bradbury was another cat collector. He and his wife owned around twenty felines during their marriage.

4. Louisa May Alcott connected cats with having a happy home. Check out Little Women sometime.

5. L.L. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables fame, definitely depended on Luck, her cat, when it came to writing happily.

As for me? I’m felineless for now, but I married my husband because he owned four cats. Okay, that’s not the only reason why. His house had an ocean view. I’m also prone towards freckles.

And we did own quite a happy little clutch of cats when we lived out in the country. Seven. They did not sit on my desk or shoulder while I wrote. They had their house and we had ours.

See, old Poe did like cats.

Writerly Wisdom: Quotes on Setting


One reason I read books is because I dread ever so much to travel. I do like the “here I am” of arriving. It’s all that packing, squishing into miniscule airline seats, fretting about schedules, realizing I brought the entirely wrong things to wear, that make traveling drearisome. I do like the exploring, discovering, reveling that is part of going somewhere new. This is a big reason why I read novels. Reading, especially fiction, takes me places that doesn’t involve packing a bag. This month’s Writerly Wisdom set of quotes focuses on that aspect of writing involving place: setting. How does a writer put me in the “there” of their writing?

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.”
Tony Hillerman

Eudora Welty said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else… Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?…”

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekov

How important is setting for you when reading? Is it more important than visualizing the character? What memorable settings have you discovered in reading–which authors are able to transport you to that place in the writing?

Cricket’s Hamlet Aventure: Day Six–Reading Room Remiss


Today was our last day in the reading room. The Folger Reading Room is the heartbeat of the Folger Shakespeare Library. This is where one goes to seek information, conduct research, and revel in past history. Yes, the majority of the collection is centered around Shakespeare, yet the library contains other information that relates to Shakespeare such as politics or manners for the time period.

I couldn’t help but notice the regulars that spend ALL day researching. I imagine we disrupted their mojo a bit this week as we whispered and bustled about in our scant time among the stacks. I asked one gentleman what his project concerned, expecting some dry thesis point about act three of Richard III. Nope. He was working on an Irish murder mystery that took place in medieval times and has been gathering background on law, setting, etc. His notebooks were overflowing. I wasn’t clear if he was gathering the material with the intent of writing a novel. I kind of hoped I was witnessing a renowned writer at work. We were unable to continue our conversation as I had to hustle back to Hamlet School. Here are a few memories of the Reading Room:

 

so much to learn in such little time

  

on the left is a “snake” which holds the page down –it’s a lead string

  

as Hamlet said so well:”Words,words,words”

  

plus drawings that bring it into better focus

  

the interior is richly Tudored and the stained glass at the end is Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man

 
I will definitely miss the Reading Room. Tea Time was served promptly at 3 o’clock every day. Cheerio!

The Giver et al


I have rediscovered The Giver. 

the-giver

sometimes the movie reminds the reader the greatness of the book image: bookopia.com.au

When it arrived on the scene in 1993 I was not an impressionable YA reader. No, I was a thirtysomething wife/mom/librarian and read books no matter what age they were intended for. Hmm. the only thing that’s changed is my age and the fact that I’m a librarian at heart while teaching English.

Like most readers, I felt a bit cheated at the ending. It was not neatly wrapped up and presented as a conclusion of satisfaction. Ambiguity can be quite frustrating, yet that’s one reason why The Giver is so memorable. We all want to know what happened to Jonas. Having rediscovered The Giver through watching the 2014 film led me to discover the other books in the series: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. And here I thought all these years that the story ended with that famous sled ride.

Apparently it took twenty years for the book to become adapted to the screen. Jeff Bridges bought the rights and had originally wanted his father Lloyd to play the part of Giver. It didn’t happen, but viewers can watch a family reading of The Giver as one of the special features selections on the released DVD. Having finished reading the entire quartet I am smitten with the entire story. I hope there is a continuation of the series since each adds to the overall understanding of Jonas’s world.

An added bonus to rediscovering The Giver was reading the latest edition which contains author Lois Lowry’s twenty year reflection of The Giver’s impact.

A goal for this year: revisiting novels, particularly juvenile and YA novels, to gain a different perspective and insight.

Anyone interested in doing the same?

 

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